Tried and tested: the Christiania trike
What is it?
Essentially a back-to-front tricycle with a plywood box on the front for shopping, dogs or kids. The bike was invented in Copenhagen’s Christiania commune 30 years ago and is now a Danish design icon.
What’s it like to ride?
Tricky to get the hang of, especially round corners. I found it helped to think of it not as steering a normal bike but like riding a bike and pushing a pushchair at the same time. Pick up any speed, though, and the whole thing goes haywire. Its bulk has a great psychological effect on the rider and on passing bus drivers, who give you a wide berth rather than cutting you up as they would other cyclists. Riding it home round Hyde Park Corner during a sweltering Friday rush hour was not, however, the most relaxing way to test this theory.
What’s it like for passengers?
Esme (seven) and Max (three) loved it. They had their own seats, with seatbelts (including a toddler harness for Max). There was a rain cover (with window) for inclement weather, or just to make it feel like a den. And they loved the attention the bike drew from passers-by. All of their friends had rides – at one point I had three seven-year-olds in the box at once.
Riding through Dulwich Park on a sunny Saturday morning to take the kids to their swimming lesson made me question the need for ever having a car. As well as using it for school runs, other people use the Christiania for shopping, taking their dogs to the park or, if the website photos are to be believed, getting married. The owner of the shop says he even takes his on the train when he goes on holiday.
This is not really a commuter bike. You can’t get up much speed, you can’t dodge through traffic, and it’s hard work up hills. Storage is also a problem if you don’t have off-street parking. This is not one to prop up in your front hall.
Where do I get one in London?
Velorution, just off Oxford Street, has a selection of Christiania bikes, as well as other unconventional cycles. They cost from £915 new, though can also be rented at £20 for the day, £35 for the weekend and £95 for a week (all refundable if you decide to buy).
Velorution, 18 Great Titchfield St, W1 (020 7637 4004/www.velorution.biz) Great Portland St, Oxford Circus or Regent’s Park tube. Open Mon-Fri 8.45am-6.45pm, Sat 10.30am-6.30pm.
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Velorution has changed ownership and no longer deals with Christiania Bikes. Current list of dealers is here: ChristianiaBikesUK.com
I love it! I am renting one this weekend to try before I buy. 2 kids aged 3 and 5 with a 6 mile round-trip school run. If it lasts for 3 summers, I will have had my fun. Husband thinks it is a fad, but I am going to prove him wrong! There is always the power-assist for the North London hills.
These are no doubt perfect for cycling around a car-free alternative commune like Christiania. I recently saw a woman, smiling broadly, cycling her way around Old Street roundabout. In the plywood box attached to its front were three small children. The reactions of people who witnessed this ranged from dumbstruck disbelief to outright abuse. To say that this trike gives a commanding road presence is rubbish - the box is 18 inches off the road ! This means there is a good likelihood a bus or van wouldn't see it at all. Fine in a park or commune, madness on London roads.